SoftBank Team Japan opened the America’s Cup Qualifiers in Bermuda today with one win and one loss despite a hairy pre-start collision with Land Rover BAR.
With 25 seconds to go on the start clock, SoftBank Team Japan Skipper Dean Barker took advantage of a wind shift that slowed the British team and accelerated the Japanese boat to over 39 knots to gain an overlap and hook the Brits into a penalty.
However, as Land Rover BAR Skipper Ben Ainslie attempted to stay clear, his yacht slipped on it’s foils causing the Brit’s leeward hull to violently drop down into the Japanese cockpit.
Fortunately, no sailors were injured in the collision though both boats sustained damage.
“Obviously it was a bit of a ‘love tap’ as Ben calls it in the start of the second race”, said SoftBank Team Japan Skipper Dean Barker making reference to the Brit’s earlier collision with Emirates Team New Zealand.
“It was a little bit of a hairy moment seeing their leeward hull landing on our boat. Both boats have damage, it hit all the guys but doesn’t seem anyone is too badly injured. The nature of the racing is it’s getting closer and harder and it’s all part of the game. Ben wasn’t intending to hit us.
“We saw an ugly big black hull coming towards the side of the boat. One of our grinder pedestal handles went through the side of their boat. There was a bit of damage to us but we can sort it for tomorrow.”
The team went on to claim the win after the resulting penalty on Land Rover BAR.
If the collision wasn’t excitement enough to end the day, SoftBank Team Japan’s first race against Artemis Racing was a nail-bitter when despite the team’s strong lead in the first four legs, a tactical error on the final upwind beat gave the Swedes a passing lane they took full advantage of.
“The race against Artemis, we felt that we sailed a pretty good race other than the second upwind. We gave them an opportunity, which they took. They sailed a very good race”, said Barker.
With the majority of teams finishing with an even scorecard, the stage is set for an incredibly competitive competition, one in which there is no clear favourite after the first day of racing.
“We’re satisfied with the day”, said Barker. “We would’ve liked to have had two wins but you’ve got to sail well all around the course.”